Ray’s been serving tennis at Pompallier for 45 years
It’s tough to play tennis with bulrushes growing in the middle of the court.
But that’s what Pompallier Tennis Club founder Ray Keenan was faced with when he started the club in 1963.
Courts at the St Mary’s Bay base were home to other Catholic tennis clubs during the 1940s and 50s, but had fallen into disrepair.
“Tennis had given me pleasure in my younger days, so I decided I’ve got to do something about it,” he says.
After securing permission to resurrect a club on the church-owned land, Ray set out on a two-year funding drive to resurface the courts and erect new fences.
The fundraising process included everything from raffling meat packs to cars.
Ray’s efforts brought in enough cash for the club to open in 1965.
A series of working bees held throughout the late 1970s were responsible for the pavilion which is still used today.
And the 80-year-old’s commitment still hasn’t faded.
He now helps to organise tournaments and looks after maintenance of the club facilities.
“I founded it and naturally I want to see it succeed. I wouldn’t like to see it die out,” Ray says.
Ray also had plenty of success at the club’s annual championships, winning the singles tournament eight times between 1968 and 1981, and playing in the interclub Caro Bowl.
The Pompallier life member switched to doubles in the late 1970s after being diagnosed with arthritis, taking out the title five years running with son Michael.
He also attended the veteran versions of Wimbeldon and the French Open in 1974, making the semifi on the famous clay surface at Roland Garos.
Originally he was reluctant to go because of family commitments, but wife Margaret insisted he make the three-month trip.
“She said: ‘You’ve always wanted to go, so go’.”
Club captain James Shortall says they’re extremely lucky to have Ray still involved after so many years. “He’s always here. “There are probably a lot of other clubs envious of his dedication to Pompellier.”
The club is holding an open day on Sunday.
For more information visit www. pompalliertennis.co.nz or phone Ray on 575-1255.
Still going strong: Pompellier Tennis Club life member Ray Keenan still helps run the club he founded in 1965. Inset: Ray Keenan playing at an invitational tournament in 1978.